Periscopic Myopia

A periscope is supposed to have 360 degree vision, for use above the surface, and which allows a panoramic view of the surrounding terrain.  Although you wouldn’t know that from looking through the one used by Niall O’Dowd when probing the history of the Northern Irish conflict.  Instead of enhancing situational awareness the Periscope at the Irish Voice stays submerged so that vision is limited and the view opaque. The Periscope is guided by what it hears rather than what it sees.  And when the sonar is bouncing back off those behind much of the North’s organised lying any navigational sense after that is sure to be warped.

Earlier this week I scribbled together a few thoughts lightly addressing in general terms the methodological deficiencies in Niall O’Dowd’s approach to the construction of history. In this piece I want to flesh that out somewhat, for the purpose of illustrating how the inadequacies cherished by Niall O’Dowd serve to keep the public misinformed, and is more in tune with a propaganda organ than a serious news outlet.
"Long ago and far away there seems little doubt that Gerry Adams was a senior figure in the IRA in West Belfast." - Niall O'Dowd, Latest 'Get Gerry Adams' effort is led by deeply troubled woman -- Dolours Price has long history of mental illness after force-feeding
Except in Adams’ own mind where there is no doubt whatsoever: he was never a member of the organisation. He has told more lies about this than a tax man would hear in his entire career and O’Dowd is not prepared to risk a total collapse of credibility by echoing him to the letter. Even a modicum of variation provides some shelter against the deluge of derision that the Adams denials draw down.

If ‘long ago and far away’ was to mean a decade, people could buy into it notwithstanding the denials of Adams, which even Niall O’Dowd does not believe. But this was not what the man behind the Periscope wanted to convey. The way he phrased his assertion invites the reader to believe that Adams might just possibly have been an associate of Proinsias De Rossa ‘long ago and far away’ back in the distant past of frugal Ireland with its comely maidens. Perhaps he hopes to bamboozle his readership that because the Adams-De Rossa endpoint has been the same, it can be inferred that the starting point was roughly similar also and that their hands-on, or hands-off, approach to armed campaigning was about equal.

The paucity of analysis is amply underscored by such a portrayal of the role of Adams. Virtually alone amongst journalists, academics and historians in maintaining this fiction, O’Dowd has ignored an array of analytical devices for measuring the Adams narrative preferring instead a spinograph. And spin, as has been long pointed out, is simply a routine resort to deception.  Next time his car breaks down he should try pushing it with a rope. He will find it as successful an enterprise as pushing the marginal IRA role of Adams into the public arena where all the people cannot be fooled all the time.

O’Dowd not only seeks to reduce the Adams role in terms of longevity but also in terms of seniority by limiting its geographical spread: the readership is invited to believe that Adams had only some sort of responsibility for the West Belfast IRA. Which is about as enlightening as saying Henry Kissinger’s sphere of influence was restricted to Antartica.
"How could he not be? His neighborhood was under siege from the British Army and every able-bodied man back in the days when the Troubles were at their height was involved." - Niall O'Dowd, Latest 'Get Gerry Adams' effort is led by deeply troubled woman -- Dolours Price has long history of mental illness after force-feeding
But this is patent nonsense that hopes to get by on the theory that when everybody is somebody nobody is anybody: Adams therefore is no more culpable or responsible than anybody else from the heady days of widespread insurrection where his shoulder was only one of many at numerous wheels of resistance to British military incursion.

Truth is that only a tiny minority of people at any time joined the IRA. As the conflict went on that minority grew smaller as the IRA ostensibly tightened up its security, at one point even getting the British spy Freddie Scappaticci to help out. This attempt to lose Adams in the crowd simply does not wash. How many of the able bodied crew from local West Belfast made it to the nationwide Chief of Staff position within eight years of the organisation being formed?
"What is interesting about recent attempts to get Adams to admit the past is how the context is never given." - Niall O'Dowd
In fact the opposite is the case. No matter how often the context is given, which can serve both as mitigation and justification, an Adams admission is never forthcoming. Few expect him to publicly admit to anything illegal given the proclivity of the British PSNI towards prosecutions of people at one time involved in republican activities. But he has the option of staying stum. Instead he engages in a transparent fiction that others rather than he were responsible for the political violence inflicted by the Provisional IRA. It is in the words of Brian Rowan ‘a denial that many dismiss with derision.’ Out of every nine people you ask ten think he is lying.

So where is the downplaying of the Adams role leading to? O’Dowd is not risking opprobrium and downloading aspersion on his role as a public commentator for the sake of it. By charting out a relatively minor role for Adams he seeks to invoke the law of inverse proportion whereby the account of Dolours Price is projected as a gross exaggeration.
"Her time in prison did not go well. She and her sister went on a hunger strike and were force- fed for 200 days an horrific experience which has caused much of the mental trauma she experiences today." - Niall O'Dowd
That is certainly one strand in her trauma. Another is the tremendous sense of betrayal she feels as a consequence of being misled and lied to. I have spoken to her many times outside of a Boston College setting and the wounds on her soul seem not to have been caused by her prison experience but by the knife of disavowal that has been so frequently plunged into it. Has Niall O'Dowd ever tried to talk to her and seek to tease out an explanation for her trauma instead of assigning one to her? Or is he content to take cover behind the wall of her ‘sickness’ and diagnose the problem himself followed by the prescription of ‘silence and move on’?

Each time Mr Adams denies his IRA past, or permits someone else to move it back even further in time, responsibility for the actions of the IRA is shifted onto other IRA volunteers. St Peter-like, Adams denies his comrade status in a way that hardly merits the term comradely. What is it about the IRA that he commanded that is so shameful that he must deny membership of it? ‘No comment’ would suffice if prosecution is what concerns him.
"Little wonder Adams does not feel it is politic to pursue her accusations against him in court.’ Last weekend he stated: “I am not of a mind to trail Dolours Price through the courts ... she is unwell.”" - Niall O'Dowd
But he has yet to pursue anybody who has made similar allegations. And there would be no shortage of lawyers willing to take the case pro bono for the publicity it would bring in. It is not that Adams cannot find a lawyer; he cannot find a court that would believe him. It is the services of an alchemist, not a judge, he requires to convert his fictions into facts.

Niall O’Dowd likes to criticise the Belfast Project for the supposed bias of its researchers. They would indeed have a case to answer were they to be found emulating the ‘balanced’ journalism to be found in the Periscope. For at the heel of the hunt while Dolours Price might well be sick, is she as sick as that architect of the disappeared who kept people’s bodies buried in secret for three decades? That is a real sickness for which there is no cure and about which Niall O’Dowd has exhibited all the symptoms of the sickness of silence. 


  1. Anthony,

    An exceptional piece of analysis that should have Captain O'Dowd shouting 'Down Periscope!!!'

    'O’Dowd is not risking opprobrium and downloading aspersion on his role as a public commentator for the sake of it'

    I think Bailey offers some explanation in noting that, 'Too many historical writers are the votaries of cults, which, by definition are dedicated to whitewashing warts and hanging halos'

    Anyone for an old sea shanty?

    "Wae! Hae! Blow the man down"

  2. I,m hearing that the head of the prison service has been shot dead

  3. Anthony really enjoyed this post, maybe O Dowds compares himself to Nelson and in this fashion whilst referring to the glorious leader , he puts his telescope to a blind eye and say I see no IRA, as you rightly point out he knows that the IRA accusations are there and will not go away but in Nelson fashion he chooses not to see any and downplays the bearded ones role in such,Adams dug himself a hole with his early denials and instead of being the cunning fucker that he is he kept on digging,in turn pulling those who follow him or just want a whack of the £25 mill into the hole of deceit. I cant see anyway out of this now for Adams but he must be having a laugh to himself that there are still people out there who will argue that he is not a lying bastard,Robert finished on a sea shanty ... "Blow the man down boys" mine would be Fiddlers Green its about wishful thinking to,,,

  4. 'This attempt to lose Adams in the crowd simply does not wash. How many of the able bodied crew from local West Belfast made it to the nationwide Chief of Staff position within eight years of the organisation being formed?'

    Reading a book just now and this section above on the meteoric rise of Adams and Scap near flattened me! I think republicans spend too much time studying themselves and their history and not enough looking at the Brits.

    Say what you like about the Brits, but what they do they do well. YES mr kipling makes exceptionally good cakes!

  5. Murdering a prison officer will do nothing to further the republican cause. Provides handy cover for the UVF to engage in few dirty deeds of theor own. Adams no more controlled the IRA than Dennis Taylor did. he was a player a mong many.South Armagh IRA can give Grizzly 2 fingers any time they want.

  6. Dave

    I thought the same until S Armagh (Dundalk) elected him. Couldn't believe it.

  7. Dave a cara I agree with the first part of your post ie shooting po,s however despicable is a waste of time,however to say that Adams had no control of the RA is akin to saying that the queen had no soldiers ,sorry a cara dont agree with you here ,the bearded one possibly with external influences manipulated the AC over the years until he had complete control with stooges in place instead of real revolutionaries..

  8. maybe they are just clearing the way for more RC recruits to the prison service that the government are calling for. McGuinness condemned it and O'Dowd fell short of calling it murder...

  9. Is O Dowd (The norn iorn version)any relation to shrek,the resemblance is uncanny,and like Shrek O Dowd is a mild green colour to( usually a sign of illness in this case its mental)..wonder how long we will have to wait until those houndogs in the dup are calling for Colin Duffys arrest over this latest shooting...

  10. In relation to the USA version of ODowd Anthony has it ever occurred to you that the bold Niallbroy may like the quisling $inn £ein president for life have a script writer like Jonathan Powell.and better still it may suit historians and truth seekers everywhere if the bold Jonathan would just admit he is or was the AC,

  11. Dave;

    'South Armagh IRA can give Grizzly 2 fingers any time they want'.

    I think you're believing too much of South Armagh's own hype.

    That area experienced its fair share of problems post-ceasefire in terms of volunteers not being happy (to say the least) with everything and there was voices of dissent, even a few who walked away, but the overwhelming majority of volunteers and activists styled loyal to SF; were and are on board with SF's 'strategy for peace'.

    Anyone in South Armagh who was going to dissent will have already done so - those left in 'the movement' ain't gonna do a thing.

  12. Belfast Bookworm

    Totally agree with you concerning S. Armagh.

    Hope Collie Duffy has his jail pajamas washed the Lurgan UVF/RUC will be rounding up the 'usual' suspect any minute now.

  13. What an interesting statement from Martybroy Mc Guinness some call him a tout codenamed Fisherman.during his condemnation of the shooting of lol member and p.o Black, from the steps of Stormont he said the word "FOURSQUARE" this made me immediately think back to the day when he and Gerrybroy when they were not in the ra,and the shooting of security forces undercover operatives operating as a laundry and dry cleaning service in the Twinbrook area using that very title ,do you think the use of that word "FOURSQUARE "could be a Freudian slip..

  14. Apart from Martybroy I wonder how many members of quisling $inn £ein will attend yer mans funeral....

  15. The IRA (NOT PIRA/SF they are embarrassing history), would have shamed the SF croppies no end if they were only more effective and more regularly EVEN MORE 'EFFECTIVER' lol I for one would love it in my heart to watch SF totally 'croppying' themselves at the steps of Stormont as they have no knees left in their trousers at this stage it would be a case of...

    as the tv ad says...OH THATS GOTTA HURT!!

  16. Marty

    It does Niall O’Dowd no favours as an analyst to be spewing such a line. He simply becomes an organ of propaganda rather than a disseminator of news.

  17. Robert,

    Down Periscope was considered as a title. I recall reading a book when I was very young called 'Up Periscope.'

  18. Great result so far Anthony, ED,

  19. Padraic Wilson, 53, was the leader of IRA prisoners in the Maze Prison in the late 1990s.

    He appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court charged with IRA membership and addressing a meeting to encourage support for the IRA.
    He has been remanded in custody.

    Big kick up the backside for PSF, There International Affairs chief locked up, lets see if Adams/Mc Guinness screams out about this, will he go onto dirty protest?.


    Things are looking up for you now, hope the good news continues and all the taped interviews are permanently blocked.

  20. itsjustmacker

    'Big kick up the backside for PSF, There International Affairs chief locked up, lets see if Adams/Mc Guinness screams out about this, will he go onto dirty protest?.'

    as i said to michaelhenry on facebook..

    'who cares'
    They ignored the lads on dirty protest from day one when people including me just wished theyd do ther whack.. now it has been deliberately ignored until some screw got stiffed... SF can go swing...what price an xray machine. if the troubles do come back THEY CAUSED IT.

    keep that brit fucker outa maghabrey, do ye think es wanted in there?

  21. The brits have invaded something like 49 countries and counting and the common denominator is that all the natives turned out to be terrorists. Now today Mi6 McGuinness has stated that after Colin Duffy was arrested

    'He hopes there will be convicitions in this case'.

    I think the time must surely be getting close for some of these SF boyos!

  22. Seems Padraig Wilson can't catch a break these days.

    Could it be he's being thrown to the wolves?

  23. Anthony,

    'Down Periscope was considered as a title. I recall reading a book when I was very young called 'Up Periscope.'

    'Perisopic Myopia' is such an eloquent title that frames the debate from the outset and heads up a corrective lense on the matter.

    It appears, albeit of Niall's own volition, not to be a fair fight. By his own reckoning O'Dowd is an expert in all things Irish - hardly a recognised academic field that would qualify or equip him with the tools to confront you in the ring of disciplines within which he is so evidently outclassed. The minimalist approach to Adams' IRA role endows the myopic pugilist with the incurable problem of a glass chin that reduces his ability to tolerate the analytical trauma you continue to visit upon him without being knocked out.
    It occured to me earlier that periscopes are invariably mounted on a 'conning tower'. That I suppose basically sums this up - epistemic commitment v a lightweight con job.

  24. Marty,

    I think he knows little about the place any more and relies on Bangers to keep him crooked.


    It seems that is precisely what they did – round up the usual suspect. It makes me feel that they are trying to set him up for assassination.

  25. Robert,

    Thank you. I merely present the case as I see it. I think any detached reader can easily see who is gilding the lily here. ‘Analytical trauma’ as you describe it is self inflicted. There is no need for Niall O’Dowd to persist in such fanciful notions. But I suppose it depends on who your advisers are. Clearly he is ill advised and ill informed but then wants to blame the illness of someone else. The irony.